Previous Posts In This Series:
Part 1 -- Let's Kill The Intelligence Cycle
Part 2 -- "We''ll Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming In Just A Minute..."
Intelligence is not something that appears, autogenously; it is something that gets done, a process. This idea, that intelligence is a process, is one of the least controversial among intelligence professionals.
However, a general description of the process of intelligence -- that is, the best way to characterize and classify those consistent elements across intelligence sub-disciplines --is still very much an open theoretical question.
Intelligence professionals have long known that the traditional way of describing the intelligence process, the so-called "intelligence cycle", is flawed; yet none of the alternatives proposed has yet captured the nuance of the process as practiced or, for that matter, the mind of the intelligence community.
This disconnect between theory and practice, between the imperfections of the intelligence cycle and the way intelligence is actually done, has real-world consequences. While I will return to this theme many times throughout this series of posts, it is useful to get a sense of the costs associated with perpetuating a faulty model of the process.
- For example, without a consensus on the way in which intelligence "happens" that works across the various sub-disciplines of law enforcement, business and national security intelligence, it is impossible to study the process for potential improvements.
- In addition, reforms proposed under flawed models are likely to be flawed reforms, incapable of solving systemic problems because the system itself is so poorly understood.
- Furthermore, training students with models of a process that falls apart when first touched by reality reduces the perceived value of training as well as the morale of those trained.
- Budgets built around a flawed model are likely to mis-allocate funds and require work-around solutions that consume even more scarce resources.
- Hiring people to fill positions created under an unsound model of the process is nearly certain to create a mismatch in terms of skills and competencies needeed vs. skills and competencies acquired.
In this series of posts, I will begin by examining the intelligence cycle and some of the critiques of it. Next, I will examine the alternatives to the intelligence cycle. Finally, I will lay out my own understanding of the process. While every intelligence project is different, my own experience and the evidence I have collected over the last eight years indicates that there are patterns in this activity, whether in the national security, business or law enforcement fields, that are consistent across the entire intelligence profession.
The final goal of this exercise, then, is to outline this new description of the process as clearly as possible based on intelligence, as it is practiced, across all its sub-disciplines and regardless of the size of the intelligence activity involved. Furthermore, I want to balance the need for both simplicity and detail such that this explanation of the process is accessible to all students of intelligence -- at whatever age or level of experience.
Next: The Generic Cycle